“Intimacy only comes with trust.”
~Janvrin & Selleck.
Love is a rubber-hits-the-road type of thing. People tell each other they love each other all the time but we know when they really mean it by what they do. Love’s a verb; a doing word. Analysed, says psychologist Robert J. Sternberg, love is effectively partitioned (or shown) in three ways: intimacy, passion and (decision and) commitment. He describes eight ways of love (one of which is non-love). It’s the Sternberg triangular theory of love (1986).
1. Liking Love – simply involves intimacy: confiding in another, sharing feelings etc. It is closeness to, and the liking of, another person. All good friendships involve this type of love.
2. Infatuated Love – simply involves only passion: it is erotic attraction; feeling ‘in love,’ intense longing and arousal. It’s the concentrated yearning for union with another person.
3. Empty Love – involves only commitment: the intention to remain in relationship. Many older style marriages existed in this way. People these days generally want more. They perhaps saw parents and grandparents “exist” in this way and they won’t have a bar of it.
4. Romantic Love – involves both intimacy and passion and is perhaps the most “lovey” type of love. Intimacy and passion carry a couple through this stage very easily without the need of commitment (which is needed a little later). It describes what we feel in the first six or twelve months of most romances (before the gloss wears off and the harder work begins, necessitating commitment).
5. Companionate Love – has everything bar passion. This probably describes most healthy marriages ninety percent of the time (with just a smattering of healthy passion added to taste!). Necessarily, healthy marriages are going to share a good component of friendship (liking love) with the added component of decision and commitment for the long haul.
6. Fatuous Love – full of passion and commitment. An exciting, fiery love is this one. Probably describes some vibrant longer term relationships. It is hard to see, however, where good relationships go without some level of intimacy, which comes from and produces trust—probably the most important ingredient in any sustainable relationship.
7. Consummate Love – the best marriages have a blend of all three: intimacy, passion and commitment. There is no unhealthy absence of balance here. Consummate love is the type of love married people should strive for with their partners.
But, love is so much broader than marital love by simple virtue that it exists in all relationships, even the macho ones i.e. non-love or empty love. Family and working relationships demonstrate this. Love is necessary everywhere.
The triangular theory of love also describes the situational “placement” of love. Intimacy, passion and commitment are required in different portions depending on the needs of the time. This is something that should always be remembered.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.
Robert J. Sternberg, In Search of the Human Mind (2nd Ed) (Fort Worth, Texas: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1998, 1995), p. 483.
David Straker, Changing Minds – In Detail (Crowthorne, Great Britain: Syque Publishing, 2008), p. 140.